Total Recall: Body Switches

With The Change-Up hitting theaters, we run down some of cinema's most memorable body swaps.

Freaky Friday

88%

Well, of course we were going to put this one on the list. And we decided to use the 2003 remake for two reasons: One, it has a higher Tomatometer, and two, Jodie Foster has made plenty of solid films, and appears in Total Recalls more regularly than the once-mighty Lindsay Lohan. Lindsay really came into her own here, going toe-to-toe with an equally game Jamie Lee Curtis in the wacky -- and surprisingly thoughtful -- tale of a rebellious teen who trades bodies with her mother thanks to a magical fortune cookie. Audiences made Friday's second theatrical outing a $160 million success, and critics applauded right along with them, including John Monaghan of the Detroit Free Press, who weighed in, "Wise but not too preachy, warm but never snuggly, it's also one of the funniest films this year."

Prelude to a Kiss

61%

Most of the movies on this list -- and in this genre, really -- use body-switching as a framing device for goofy comedy, but Prelude to a Kiss is something altogether different: the story of a newlywed couple (played by Meg Ryan and Alec Baldwin) who find themselves in an unusual predicament when an elderly man (Sydney Walker) kisses the bride and ends up trading bodies with her. Though not without comedic moments, Prelude is really a romance -- and one that comes with some thoughtful commentary on standards of beauty, the laws of attraction, and the meaning of love. "The 'change of body' plot device is nothing new," wrote James Berardinelli of ReelViews, "but it's rarely employed as intelligently or effectively as in this motion picture."

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Source Code

92%

A body-switching sci-fi thriller with a Groundhog Day-style twist that's played for anything but laughs, Duncan Jones' Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Colter Stevens, a military pilot who wakes up on a speeding train in another man's body. The premise is a lot more complex than that -- it involves a terrorist attack and a government program called, you guessed it, Source Code -- but this is the type of movie that's better the less you know going in. Suffice it to say that it is, in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, "A thriller that takes a science fiction premise and uses it, not for the sake of splashy effects, but as a doorway into the human soul."

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Turnabout

——

For anyone who thought screwball body-swapping comedies got their start with Freaky Friday, here's evidence to the contrary: 1940's Turnabout, starring John Hubbard and Carole Landis as a fabulously wealthy (and fabulously irritating) couple who repeatedly insist that each of them has it worse than the other -- and then, wouldn't you know it, they come across a mystical Indian artifact that gives them more than they bargained for. One of director Hal Roach's less-remembered efforts, Turnabout was snubbed by critics like Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, who called it "a tired and tiresome jape, as subtle as a five-cent stogie and just as aromatic."

Vice Versa

43%

Few actors in the 1980s communicated open-mouthed, childlike wonder better than Judge Reinhold -- and few child actors played wise beyond their years better than Fred Savage. So in terms of casting, 1988's Vice Versa was a perfect match -- a tale of a harried executive (Reinhold) who ends up in the body of his young son (Savage) thanks to a magic skull that overhears them arguing about whose life is harder. Of course, once you say the words "magic skull," you've given yourself a tough row to hoe in terms of what your audience is willing to accept, and it certainly didn't help that Vice Versa arrived in the midst of a glut of similarly themed comedies. Although it ultimately flopped at the box office and received generally negative reviews, it was warmly received by some critics -- including Roger Ebert, who called it "a treasure of a movie, in which the performances hold the key" and wrote, "What makes Vice Versa so wonderful is the way Reinhold and Savage are able to convince us that each body is inhabited by the other character."

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Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don't forget to check out the reviews for The Change-Up.

Finally, here's the trailer for the greatest body swap comedy of all time -- The Hot Chick:

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